Matthew Crawford's Shop Class As Soul Craft - a book that convincingly makes the case that the work of our hands demands and reflects as much intelligence as that of our heads - reminded me, a Christian minister, that I serve a Lord whose story is tied up with the carpenter's trade, and that the first preachers of the gospel were fishermen and a tentmaker.
Ironically, the president of my seminary used to advise graduating seniors that if we had any useful skills we should not let our parishioners know about them, allowing ourselves to be thought of as helpless as babes, laboring piously in our studies with holy books as our only tools. Because of my aptitudinal deficits, this assignment has, unfortunately, been only too easy for me to fulfill.
My brother-in-law, a fellow Lutheran pastor, is, however, a skilled woodworker who has built custom homes, crafted a bed as a gift for each of his children, and patiently instructed me in the use of the scribe, the miter saw, and various wood finishes as we've worked together to build the cabin we share. (When our children were little, whenever I embarked upon a home improvement project they would chant, “Call Uncle Jeff!”)
The cabin has been and continues to be a labor of love (there’s no other way to put it) and, along with our other preacher brother-in-law who, as an old farm boy is handy in all kinds of ways, we have built it in a series of retreats that are a hearty organic mix of theology and sawdust.
I love discussing theology with these my brothers, but it's a much richer conversation when we’ve put down our hammers or saws or paintbrushes and we're sitting in a half-finished kitchen sharing a break from honest labor over a thermos of coffee.
“It is by having hands that man is the most intelligent of animals.” (Anaxagoras, 5th century B.C.)
Anaxagoras quoted by Mathew B. Crawford in Shop Class As Soul Craft, Penguin Press, 2009.